By Kelsey Trotter
Empowering Youth to Power Communities
Consider, for a moment, a snowball. One snowball is made up of millions of tiny snowflakes, every single one unique. Although different, they stick together, becoming bigger, stronger, and more powerful.
Like many high schoolers, Riley Blythe felt the opposite of powerful: she was a shy, admittedly narrow-minded freshman without a great understanding of the world and community around her. She didn’t feel comfortable speaking publicly or confident in crowds. But, when Riley heard about the community prevention program Operation Snowball, she joined during her sophomore year to help deepen her understanding. Throughout the program, she became more aware of her community’s needs and built her confidence along the way.
Flashback to 1977, several Rockford, Illinois students attended a week-long program with Illinois Teen Institute. Inspired by messages of youth empowerment to make healthy decisions, the students created Operation Snowball to share what they learned at a local level. Today, the program does exactly that. The message of student empowerment, healthy decisions, confidence and community connectivity snowballed across the state of Illinois and now has over 55 chapters.
When Riley joined Operation Snowball, she was nervous she wouldn’t fit in but explained at Operation Snowball, “There was a feeling of genuine acceptance. Taking you in and not judging you, and that is really hard to find and you can find that at Snowball.” Riley loved Operation Snowball for the confidence it gave her and the connections she made.